I believe in karma-of all kinds including and not limited to strange things such as karma of lifts. For not having a license for several decades means that I have gotten several lifts over the years and I probably owe the universe several thousand. So when I was confirming plans to meet with Laura at Janani she mentioned that she didn't have her car. I offered to pick her up and drive her there in Purdie the Prius.
Slowly I fought my way through peak hour city traffic where I tried to find the lane markings which were slick and glistening with what looked like oil. We finally made it to Janani with a combination of the GPS and Laura's instructions and fell upon it gratefully.
Laura is a regular here and she and her friend NQN reader Maddie have been going here for years so she gets a warm greeting when we enter. "I always order the same thing so let's order weird things tonight and let's order lots of food!" she says eagerly. We peruse the plastic coated pages and start at the drinks. The two owners, a husband and wife team are here 7 days a week and the wife answers any questions we have about the menu items.
Faludha $6 on left and Butter milk on right $3.50
The closest description of the faludha is a thick, rose scented milkshake drink with scoops of kulfi ice cream and faludha seeds. It's is sweet, thick and delicious without being too overpowering with rose. In contrast is the butter milk-not buttermilk, the by product of butter making, but an entirely different entity. Here they blend coriander, curry leaves, cumin seeds and ginger with milk and serve it cold. It's unusual and definitely savoury and your brain, especially after having the faludha thinks "No" but when yo think of it like a cold soup like a gazpacho through a straw then it tastes better. It's kind of like the first time I tried a salty lassi or ayran. Now I love them both but the first time I didn't.
Ginger Milk tea $3.50
"That's three drinks right?" she asks us and we both nod. I always love going out to dinner with people that love to sample a lot. The ginger milk tea is my favourite of the drinks, not just for it's warming properties on this cold and wet night but once I add a couple of teaspoons of sugar it gives a bit of spicy, milky sweetness that is like a little hug.
Chicken 65 $8
"Don't ask me what Chicken 65 means" the wife says to us laughing. "What does it mean?" we ask. They say that it is called that because it has been made since 1965. The dish is made up of tender pieces of chicken marinated in what looks like a spicy yogurt marinade and grilled until juicy and charred on the edges. It's similar to a Tandoori chicken in smaller, bite sized pieces.
Hopper: coconut milk and jaggery $3.50
You don't often see hoppers on the menu at many Indian restaurants as they're a South Indian and Sri Lankan street food and I was intrigued to try the bowl shaped pancakes made with special hopper pans. Made with coconut milk and rice flour and eggs this one is covered with a thick coconut cream that isn't sweetened like we expected. It's mild tasting and almost plain but then I preferred this with some of the chicken 65.
Hopper: egg $3
The egg hopper is fancier and comes with a soft yolk egg in the centre and a sambal mix made with spicy grated coconut. The wife explains how to eat it and that is to tear off a piece from the rim and dip it into the egg yolk and pick up some sambal with it too before popping it into the mouth.
Chicken biryani $10
A huge dish for a mere $10 we marvel at the prices here. The wife who makes the biryani tells us biryani is where the real skills lie. They make it on alternate days and use 10 kilos of meat and 10 kilos of rice. It's a careful balance of rice and curry as it is layered rice then curry then rice then curry and so on and they need to put in the right amount-too little and that's no good as there is too much curry and the rice goes soggy. She tells us that every time she makes it it is like a surprise to see how it has turned out. The biryani, and ours is with a large piece of breast meat, is wonderfully seasoned and the texture of the rice is perfect. There's extra curry sauce and yogurt as well as pickles on the side. I actually like the coconut string hopper with this.
Crab curry $12
To be honest we didn't expect much when paying $12 for a crab curry but it is surprisingly good. The crab is not so much the star as is the sauce which is rich and bursting with flavours and spices. In fact some of the crab claws haven't been cracked so we don't risk splattering a newly dry cleaned dress and take some home for us. Oh and yes you will have leftovers when you order as much as we do... ;)
North Indian Thali $12
Another huge dish this was a vegetarian dish made up of four vegetable curries, rice, roti and a sweet dessert-a meal in one. And because Laura is a regular she knows that there are two kitchens, and the kitchen that makes the best roti out of the two is the one that makes the thali so she always orders this to get the better roti. There is a dahl soup, an aromatic pea curry, an eggplant curry and a lentil curry and they change on every given day. They're all good but the pick is definitely the creamy eggplant. The roti is buttery and soft and the sweet soup is a saffron based milk dessert with vermicelli noodles in it.
"Oh no, we've got two more dishes coming? We have to tell them to stop!" Lura says. We're full and we realise that we've ordered too much. "No matter" the wife says to Laura "I know your limits".
Dessert plate (sorry I don't remember the price) from left to right: Gulab jamen, vattilappam and yogurt treacle dessert
But of course there is always room for dessert! We are undecided so the wife tells us that she will put together a plate of the three desserts for us. The vattilappam is like a steamed, moist pudding cake sweetened with the distinctive molassesy taste of jaggery sugar. The yogurt treacle dessert, looking so much like a soft boiled egg is refreshing with the syrup and would be wonderful on a hot day (although it is a cold evening and still goes down well). The gulab jamen, those sweet, milk and nut based small balls soaked in syrup are so irresistible.
We're stuffed to the gills and have three takeaway boxes to take with us (waste not!) "I'm going to have a food baby" Laura says patting her tummy. "It's going to be called Janani" she says laughing.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ask for your food to take away with you? And do you ever order more so you get leftovers?
32 Burlington Rd, Homebush, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 9763 2306
Open 7 days